May 15, 2013
Why am I just now discovering the wonders of Belle Epicurean, a quaint and classy French bakery/restaurant with locations downtown and in Madison Park? I’ve wasted previous years of my life NOT eating here, it seems. At any rate, this place is the real deal. There’s a full counter of all sorts of decadent desserts, ranging from almond tortes to macaroons – a whole tower of them, in fact:
I didn’t sample the macaroons because I am not a passionate macaroonist, but I did get a red velvet petit four, a flourless chocolate decadence, and cinnamon brioche bun. The flourless chocolate decadence, while not mind-blowing, did live up to it’s name. The brioche bun was ultra buttery, with a lovely caramelized sugar crunch. The petit four impressed me the most of the three desserts. It was very moist, with no dried, stale edges, and was basically just heaven in a bite (actually 4 bites).
Perfection! Belle Epicurean is most definitely a keeper, and it will keep me coming back for more. Maybe I’ll even try a macaroon.
May 9, 2013
My weekend “chores” included checking out the new Violet Sweet Shop over by Laurelhearst, newly opened on 45th. The bakery is all-vegan (which is why I counted it as a chore rather than a pleasure) and I tried hard not to be prejudiced, especially since it was so darn cute inside:
The people working there were also super friendly, so I really wanted to like them. The problem was despite the cuteness, and the friendliness, the desserts were still vegan. And it’s hard to make a very good cupcake, shortbread, or mousse without eggs, butter, or cream. But they tried. Everthing did LOOK good, and I ended up getting a couple items including a peanut butter mousse dessert cup and a lemon cupcake (I couldn’t bear the thought of a shortbread cookie made without butter, so I had to pass on that one):
Predicably, I was disappointed with both. The texture of the peanut butter cup was watery and didn’t hold together. The lemon cupcake tasted more like a muffin than a cake and the “frosting” was, again, watery. Maybe if you’re a vegan your tastebuds adjust, but frankly, I need my butter and eggs.
April 28, 2013
I really wanted to like Cortona Cafe. Cozy, unpretentious, with strong a neighborhood (Madrona) feel, it had an atmosphere that felt like a small town hippie coffee shop. Free wifi, an all-waffle menu, and a super-nice lady running the counter didn’t hurt. Parking was no problem and I loved the little outdoor eating area:
I ordered an Americano and the Belgian waffle with mixed fruit, maple syrup, and whipped cream. And waited… and waited… and waited. I had my Americano to sip on, but it was watery. My waffle finally arrived, and looked gorgeous:
I was really excited to dig in – everything looked fresh and carefully crafted. And it was. The problem was the waffle itself – it was overdone and came out dry. Waffles are hard to get right – they can’t be mushy, but they also shouldn’t be hard and crunchy. I ate most of it, but really had to use my arm muscles to cut bites. The waffles get great reviews on Yelp, however, so maybe I just happened to be there on an off day.
March 25, 2013
This weekend, I finally was willing and able to to try out The Wandering Goose, a small Southern-style bakery/restaurant on Cap Hill serving biscuit breakfast sandwiches along with a very impressive collection of baked goods. I say finally because I had been put off for many weeks by long lines and big crowds at brunch hour (there is very limited seating space – take your food to-go or go on a weekday). I realized immediately I had been missing out on major baked goodness.
Besides a variety of delicious breakfast sandwiches (they make their own sausage and the eggs are perfect), there were cookies, cakes, pies, and much more. I stood in shock for a moment, then dove in. I started with a buttermilk biscuit with jam and butter:
It was perfectly flakey and moist, and suddenly I felt so happy to be alive and eating at this lovely place where they make their own honey (bee hives are on the rooftop) and take as long as they want to bring your coffee. I wanted to eat every single thing they had, but I settled for “grandma’s table cake” which is yellow cake with chocolate frosting – my fave.
Did I mention that the cakes are HUGE? Like, Kingfish Cafe size. It must be a Southern thing. Anyway, I was blown away with the perfection of this layer cake. Perfectly dense and moist in terms of the cake, and the frosting was not too sweet, and perfectly salted. It doesn’t get much better. I will be wandering into the Goose much more often in the future.
March 3, 2013
I like two of the three things that make up this cafe’s name (I’m not a big wine drinker, it makes me sleepy and headachy) so I thought there was a good chance I’d fall for Wine, Tea, and Chocolate in Fremont. I came mainly for the chocolate, so I started out with a sample of their sipping chocolate. The guy working the counter warned me that it wasn’t for everyone because of its spicy, citrusy flavor, and kindly offered me a sample before buying. I was grateful for the warning and the trial-size – the flavor was not up my alley. I went with a grilled cheese and pear sandwich and chocolate pudding pie instead, and settle into a table (there was plenty of space, they were not at all crowded on a Saturday).
I like the fact that there was plenty of space and light, with expansive windows and luxurious curtains. But somehow I found the overall setting a bit cold and unfriendly. Maybe because everything was so new – no old cozy couches or well-worn tables in the style of so many coffee shops I generally haunt. But my stomach felt right at home with the grilled cheese, and I ended up asking for the pie to go. This proved to be a bit of a chore for my server, who kindly put it into a coffee cup!
With a decadent chocolate pudding base, hazelnuts, a shortbread cookie, and cream, this was a big cup of goodness. I was most impressed with the pudding itself, which had none of the watery gelatinous taste of grocery store pudding cups. Instead, the pudding was rich – I could only eat half in one sitting – and intensely flavored. To me, this place is less of a wine bar and more of a coffee/lunch/dessert place, but I will happily taste my way through the menu as they work on their identity.
February 3, 2013
Living on Capitol Hill, I’m spoiled when it comes to food and drink. I think our neighborhood has the best selection of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and desserts. And if you want one restaurant that fits all of those categories (especially the latter), Cafe Pettirosso is the place to go. They do it all, and do it all well. I went mainly for dessert (along with some coffee, wifi, and space to work).
There’s a wide variety of treats, and plenty of tables and cozyness to keep you hanging out for a while. I started out with the cinnamon bun, which I was very impressed with. It had the proper amount of cinnamon (a lot) and wasn’t overly sweet. I also tried the pumpkin pie with marshmallow brulee, which is very popular but wasn’t really my thing. I took a “Sin Cake” home, which turned out to be my best idea ever.
Hmm. Still learning my Iphone, so you have to turn your head sideways to see the word sin. Anyway, letting the cake sit at room temperature for a few hours helped the texture of the cake. Pettirosso also gives you a little cup of raspberry sauce to serve with the cake. I meant to eat half, but I ended up gobbling the whole thing down in one sitting, it was that good. Super rich, super chocolaty.
December 24, 2012
Charged with the task of bringing dessert to a dinner party (and limited on time), I stopped by La Toscanella in South Lake Union. The space inside was pretty big, modern, and sleek, despite the fact that this is not a “corporate” establishment. There was a wide variety of goods to choose from, plus breakfast and some pre-packaged goods.
The place wasn’t very crowded, and the girl at the counter was pretty patient, so I took my time to look everything over. It being an Italian bakery, I had to try the Tiramisu and the Chocolate Mousse:
I personally thought the Tiramisu was a little dry – I prefer a more pudding-like consistency with strong rum and coffee flavors. This was more cake and cream. The chocolate mousse was similarly light and a little bland for my taste (not to mention difficult to eat because of the hard chocolate shell.
I will say that the folks at dinner were impressed by both, so this might be a case of personal preference (or me being picky). At any rate, it’s a bakery worth checking out.
December 3, 2012
Finally. It seems I’ve been waiting so long to see what all the fuss was about (lines out the door, selling out early, people waiting outside at 7 AM…). We got there around 10 and although we had to wait in line for about 20 minutes, there was still plenty to eat (they open at 9 instead of 7 on the weekends).
When we got to the front of the line, I had to make some quick decisions (luckily I had researched beforehand), and I went with a plain croissant, kouign amann, cinnamon roll, and a “Cheweo.” Perhaps it’s necessary to pause for a definition of terms. A kouign amann (pronounced kween a-mon) is like a small round croissant, but with a caramelized exterior and (how is it possible?) an even more buttery inside. A Cheweo is their version of an Oreo, with a soft cookie.
It should be obvious just from looking at the picture that everything was superb. The cinnamon rolls are not as sugary as others, with way less icing. The croissant was done right, and certainly flaked (rather than crumbled). The Cheweo could have been more intensely chocolate. Everything, however, paled in comparison to the kouign amann, which is butter and flour in perfect harmony. The outside was crispy; the inside melted in your mouth and the whole thing was over far too soon. Worth getting there early to get these before they sell out.
November 12, 2012
I’m an ardent supporter of Top-Pot doughnuts and have always considered Mighty-O to be the ugly stepsister in the Seattle Doughnut dance. Turns out Mighty-O wears that glass slipper pretty well.
Located in Greenlake, Mighty-O prides itself on vegan, organic ingredients (yes, you can make a vegan doughnut, and yes, it’s just as bad for you as a doughnut made with animal products) and on being an ethical company with strong ties to the Seattle community. On my visit, I wasn’t sure what to expect – the doughnuts I had bought in stores that carried Mighty-O had been lacking in flavor and slightly stale. I hoped for a better experience on their home turf… and I got it.
I chose the “French Toast” flavor (on the left) and the lemon poppyseed. The joy upon scarfing down the lemon poppyseed was absolute. Moist, cakey inside with a strong lemon flavor, and a glaze that was just the right amounts of sweet/tart. The girl at the counter told me the French Toast doughnut would still taste great tomorrow, and although I was skeptical I just couldn’t justify eating two doughnuts in one afternoon (I had just had brunch!). So the next day I popped my French Toast in the microwave for just a few seconds, and sure enough, it tasted completely fresh, not to mention amazing. Great flavor, and I’m pretty impressed they nailed the essence of French Toast without using eggs!
Mighty-O, I’m your new biggest fan and I will be back… but I wish you’d open a few more locations (Cap Hill would be perfect).